Amid the pomp and circumstance of Friday’s grand reopening of a hangar at Luminati Aerospace’s Calverton facility — an event that featured bold assertions, a former astronaut on hand and the usual lineup of politicians — a nagging question hung over the site where Grumman once built F-14 jets.
How will Luminati secure the financing to guarantee it can deliver on its intended purchase of the remaining town-owned land at EPCAL? So far, the only answer we’ve heard is to trust them.
At Friday’s ribbon-cutting, Luminati CEO Daniel Preston showed off equipment, including a 3-D printer, and declared that the company plans to be a “major force in the aerospace industry.” All they need, he said, is another 2,300 acres of property at EPCAL — property that is publicly owned, that has been the target of more failed proposals than we can list and that public officials have long believed is the key to solving the town’s budget problems.
For Riverhead Town and its residents, the stakes are too high for there to be anything less than full transparency when it comes to this proposed $40 million sale.
Just a day before Friday’s event, reports emerged that Luminati’s earlier financial backer, Facebook, is no longer involved with the company and has not been for some time. Facebook had been rumored as a Luminati partner ever since the start-up came to Calverton, with the idea that it could use the company’s unmanned aircraft to expand internet capability to far-flung locations across the globe.
Supervisor Sean Walter said this week at least one other financial backer has stepped up following Facebook’s departure, but said he could not disclose who. Incredibly, even other members of the Town Board have been kept in the dark.
Councilman Tim Hubbard rightfully questioned Mr. Preston and Luminati, saying the town and the public don’t know enough about the company or its CEO right now. His insistence that this sale requires additional vetting is well-founded.
Luminati continues to maintain its claim that it could grow to employ 2,000 workers in five years, rivaling the employee roster at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Candidates running for town council were rightfully skeptical of that number. And if the company actually did expand that fast, where would all those employees live? In Riverhead Town? Scattered throughout the county? Would housing be provided at EPCAL?
To see the aerospace industry thrive once again in Riverhead Town would be a welcome boon. But Luminati will have to say a lot more about itself than just “trust me” in order for that to happen.
Photo credit: Krysten Massa